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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Dakota Fire Pit

The Dakota Hole is a tactical fire lay.
Although no fire is 100% tactical, this fire lay will accomplish certain things:
(a) Reduces the signature of the fire by placing it below ground.
(b) Provides more of a concentrated heat source to boil and cook, thus
preserving fuel and lessening the amount of burning time.
(c) By creating a large air draft, the fire will burn with less smoke than the
fire pit.
(d) It is easier to light in high winds.

From the USMC Summer Survival Manual

Improve Your Soil Naturally

The forest floor is something to truly marvel at.  It is an intricate system of organisms and plants, all interconnected and dependent upon the other to thrive.  The tree that once stood so tall, sits on the forest floor where moss and mushrooms grow on it, yet is also a home to a mound of ants.  Once decomposed, the tree will become part of the earth again to create more trees to grow.  The forest biome seems to be a giant recycling system.  Because of the health of the soil, none of the beauty could grow and thrive.   
Soil is a natural resource and without it, there would be no plants, no crops, no animals.  Would it be too much to say that we would cease to exist without the presence of rich soil to grow our food?    
According to the Soil Science Society of America, “Soil is not dirt.  It is a complex mix of ingredients: minerals, air, water, and organic matter – countless organisms and the decaying remains of once living things.  Soil is made of life.  Soil makes life.  And soil is life.  We want to keep and protect soil.”    

7 Facts About Soil You Didn’t Know:

  • Soil is living.
  • There are more than 70,000 types of soil in the United States.
  • One tablespoon of soil has more organisms in it than people on Earth.
  • The very best China dishes are made from soil.
  • It takes more than 500 years to form one inch of topsoil.
  • Nearly all antibiotics used to fight our infections are obtained from fungus found in soil.
  • In one gram of soil, there are over 5,000 different types of bacteria.

Creating Living Soil    

Utilizing the way the forest creates soil could be the secret to growing healthy plants.  Of course, this is not a new concept.  In fact, forest farming has been around for hundreds of years, and has recently become a new way to grow high value crops such as wheat in a natural thriving environment.  The basic premise is the better condition of the soil, the healthier and more productive the plant will be.  In order for plants to grow to their optimum capacity, they need nine different nutrients present in the soil.  While most of these elements and nutrients are naturally found in soil, sometimes they can become depleted and need to be added to keep the soil healthy.  The nutrients found in soil are below in addition to natural additions that can be made to improve the soil: 
  • Carbon – found in air and water
  • Hydrogen – found in air and water
  • Oxygen – found in air and water
  • Nitrogen – blood meal, fish emulsion, manure
  • Phosphorus – bone meal, rock phosphate, superphosphate
  • Potassium – greensand, mutriate or sulfate of potash, seaweed, wood ashes
  • Calcium – gypsum, limestone, oyster shells, slag
  • Magnesium – dolomite, magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt)
  • Sulfur – sulfur, superphosphate

No Till Gardening

No till gardening, sheet composting, or lasagna gardening  is a gardening method that builds the soil on top of already existing soil.  More notably, it does not disturb the existing soil, but only enhances it by adding layers.  Essentially, before plants are planted into the ground, a miniature compost pile is layered beneath to decay over time and supply the plants with needed nutrients once the root systems grow.  This is a very efficient method (because it works with the natural decomposition process already in nature) to gardening, builds the soil to create a welcoming environment for friendly insects such as earthworms, as well as creates a living soil that will benefit your plants or vegetables.   No till gardening works with nature instead of against it.  This type of gardening enriches the soil composition that earth worms and beneficial insects prefer, thus creating a healthy habitat as a result.  Finding items that are around your home now to use as sheet mulch is an efficient way to de-clutter and put something otherwise laying around, to use.  Think of composting materials that are normally put in the compost areas.  Items such as:
  • Newspaper
  • Manure
  • Hay
  • Vegetable/Fruit peels
  • Coffee grounds
  • Yard waste – grass clippings, leaves, pine needles, plant cuttings, etc.
In the article, A Guide to Creating a No-Till Garden,  the author provides an in depth recipe for creating this type of garden:
Here are more specific recommendations of layers you might add after the newspaper.  First, lay down four to six inches of grass clippings and leaves.  If possible, shred the material to help prevent matting.  Next, broadcast or dust the leaves and clippings with a light layer of soil amendments such as lime, greensand, and rock dust.  You might also layer comfrey and dandelion leaves here, as they are both bioaccumulators that concentrate nutrients from the soil in their leaves, and will release these nutrients back into the soil as they decompose.  Because both dandelion and comfrey sprout easily from small sections of root, however, be sure to use only their leaves.  Finally, add a layer of animal bedding and top it with straw.  Enjoy the winter as your new garden bed fertilizes and builds itself.  In the spring, you should be able to plant starts directly into the mulch after brushing aside the straw.  To sow seeds, you may have to add a thin layer of compost in order to achieve the best consistency for germination. 
Viable soil is the key to a successful harvest.  Investing your time into ensuring the soil is healthy is a wise investment on your part, and surely an investment where you will indeed reap what you sow.  Allowing the natural decomposition process to take place, allows nature to do the work and prevents you from breaking your back.  This method allows you to make better use of your time/energy yield, helps recycle trash, creates a healthy earth worm environment, and supplies plants with essential vitamins and minerals when they need it.  In the book, The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, the author begins his chapter on soil with a few words of wisdom, “Folk wisdom has it that a poor gardener grows weeds, a good gardener grows vegetables, and a very good gardener grows soil.”
For recipes to make soil, click here
Additional sources for soil:

Food Storage Basics

Storing food is an essential task that many people overlook. While most readers already know the importance of having a well stocked pantry, a large portion of the world remains unprepared. The economic collapse is truly a global concern and the need to prepare knows no country.

Sadly, the powers that be have been extremely successful in training the masses that dependence on government is more important that self reliance.  We are, more than likely, heading to an economic condition that will rival the days of the great depression. Evidently, people were far more prepared then, than they are now.

In these days of record unemployment many struggle with the notion of stocking a pantry. An often repeated question that is raised is, "How can I afford to buy extra when I can barely make ends meet?" This problem is easily solved when approached from the perspective of a lifestyle choice. Once a person internalizes the mindset required to embrace the prepper's lifestyle the rest will by nature fall into place. The familiar excuses and obstacles that prevent most people from prepping fall to the wayside once you determine that this is how you are going to live.

Prepping is not a problem that has an overnight solution. Nor can you buy your way out of trouble. It is a life long commitment to yourself and your family. It is the decision to ,"always be learning," and a commitment to stand on your own two feet, regardless of the occasion. With that said there are a few tried but true rules that will help you assemble a first class pantry that would make your depression era relatives jealous.

Rule #1-Track what your family actually uses. Take about a month and determine what foods your family actually consumes. Once you get an idea on your consumption pattern it becomes relatively easy to determine how much you need of each item.

Rule #2- Only buy what your family eats. There is nothing worse than surviving the end of the world as we know it with food you can barely stomach to get down. During a crises foods that you are familiar with are a welcomed comfort. Naturally, in a worst case scenario you should eat whatever you get your hands on but, if you have time to prepare you might as well stock what you like. Remember the movie Zombieland, all Tallahassee wanted was a twinkie. Sometimes a twinkie can change your perspective.

Rule #3- Rob 'em blind. Since you've taken the time to assemble a list of supplies you consume on a monthly basis use the system against itself. You know exactly what you want. Clip coupons and browse the sales papers to maximize your savings. Often you can legally acquire your goods for free. It takes work but I do it all the time. Once you start paying attention you will realize the patterns they use to lure you in. Loss leaders are items that the store has deeply discounted so that they actually lose money when you purchase the item. The trade-off, for them, is that you will also buy many other items, at a profit. Get your timing right and you can save a ton of money.

Rule #4- First in, first out. Always, always, always rotate your food. Pay attention to expiration dates. I actually mark my dates in black permanent marker, just to be sure.

Rule #5- Never buy more than you can consume. What good does it do you if you buy a hundred cans of beans and half of them rot in the cans because you couldn't use them? Think, plan and then shop.

Rule #6- Pay it forward. If you do buy too much and you know you will not use it, bless someone who needs the help.We're all in this struggle together.

By following these simple steps and acquiring your goods slowly over time you can quickly assemble and stock a worthwhile pantry and never even notice, in regards to your wallet.

How to Purify Water with Sunlight

How to Purify Water with Sunlight


Did you know that solar radiation from the sun can purify water and make it safe for drinking from harmful bacteria?
While so often we hear or read about the bad things that the sun is capable of doing to us, we should also know that some of the same energy from the sun can be harnessed for doing good. A few good examples include solar electric panels, solar hot water panels, and solar ovens.
Well here is one more good example. Harnessing the solar energy from the sun to purify water from a lake or stream into safe drinking water. It is much simpler than you may think. Here’s how…

UV-A rays from the sun, (Ultraviolet-A, longwave, 315-400 nm), will terminate harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses in water, given enough sun exposure.
A clear plastic bottle filled with water, exposed to the sun for 6 hours will make the water safe to drink (see the caveat list). In fact, the effectiveness of terminating  harmful bacteria is an amazing 5-Nines, that is, 99.999 percent!

List of germs that are terminated from UV-A sunlight exposure at 6 hours

  • Bacteria – Escherichia coli
  • Bacteria – Vibrio cholera
  • Bacteria – Salmonella
  • Bacteria – Shigella flexneri
  • Bacteria – Campylobacter jejuni
  • Bacteria – Yersinia enterocolitica
  • Virus – Rotavirus
  • Parasites – Giardia
  • Parasites – Cryptosporidium (needs 10 hours exposure)

List of caveats to UV-A sunlight water purification

  • This method kills germs. If the water is already contaminated with chemicals from pollution, the chemicals will remain.
  • If the water is cloudy and dirty, it should be filtered first to allow the UV-A rays to effectively penetrate into the water.
  • The plastic water bottle should be no bigger than 3 liters. UV-A will lose 50 percent effectiveness at a depth of 10 mm in moderately cloudy water, whereas UV-A will only lose 25 percent effectiveness at a depth of 10 mm in clear water. Just use a typical size soda bottle or water bottle.


How to purify water with sunlight

The recommended bottle to use is a “PET” bottle. It is very common and is typically used for soda or other soft drinks.
PET, PolyEthylene Terephthalate, Recycle code #1 on bottom of bottle.
The bottle must not be colored. It must be a clear bottle. Again, it must be a clear plastic bottle. Not glass (glass blocks too much of the UV-A for this purpose).
The bottle must be clean. Common Sense.
Fill the bottle with water. If the water is very cloudy, it must be filtered by first pouring through a cloth or such material to capture sediment.
Lay the bottle down in the sun. Do not stand them up. Ideally the bottles would by placed so that they face the same angle up to the sun to maximize the UV-A penetration.
Even better would be to lie the bottles on a reflective surface to increase the UV-A exposure using direct and reflected sunlight. This is not necessary, however it would shorten the required time and ensure optimum UV-A exposure.
If the sky is partly cloudy with only a few clouds, then 6 hours sunlight exposure will be enough time. If the sky is half filled with clouds, or more, then 2 days will be required.
Note that the outdoor temperature does not matter, so long as the UV-A sunlight exposure has been 6 hours. It is true that the hotter the water temperature inside the bottle, the faster the process, however there is no need to be concerned about temperature provided the water has been exposed to sunlight for 6 hours.
See how easy it is?

A few notes:
An excellent source for more information on this subject is from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Sciences and Technology.
For those that are concerned about using plastic, the WHO (World Health Organization) states that the limiting values (plasticizers) for drinking water are never exceeded when using PET bottles for this method.
The use of the word “purify” in the context of this article is mostly meaning “disinfect”, or “disinfection” relating to harmful pathogens. Sediment or other particulate matter should be removed by a filtering process. 

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